It’s been months, at least five long ones, since I immersed myself in writing another book. Part of the problem was an embarrassment of riches—five stories in WiP-stage, some 12-15K words along. I couldn’t seem to whip up enthusiasm to tackle any one of them.
Part of the problem was a defeatist attitude built up over time, earned honestly when Amazon raped my review collection, Scribd kicked out my most downloaded titles in an effort to reduce their romance inventory, and sundry other publishing woes. As sales dropped during the summer doldrums, the rational sector in my brain suggested a hard look at ROI. I looked. Then I was sorry I did.
Writing and publishing, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t, is still a business. A canny businessman can’t keep investing in a losing venture over the long term. If a title doesn’t earn back at least the investment in editing, book cover and promotional costs, then eventually you have to fold your tent and look into other options. So I did.
In place of writing, I re-edited earlier titles, then bundled series into box sets. I put on my accountant hat and took a long, hard look at sales figures over time, brain-stormed with fellow authors in the same boat (falling or non-existent sales), and came to some conclusions.
Reality sucks. But doing nothing and watch a writing career tank simply isn’t in my wheelhouse. I decided to do something about it.
After cherry-picking a variety of standalone titles and series, I withdrew them from wide distribution and went Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited. Why? Because romance readers, especially MM romance readers, are voracious and will gobble up 10-20 or more books a month. They are also on a budget, ergo many subscribe to KU rather than Scribd because they can “read for free” unlimited numbers of romance titles instead of scrabbling for a limit of 3 per month from a severely truncated catalog in Scribd.
They are also notorious for not spending any more than they have to on an ebook purchase, with 99c the preferred price point. I was doing splendidly at 99c, but those readers weren’t following that breadcrumb trail to the other books in the series.
Why should they. They have Kindles groaning under the weight of 99c box sets containing 10, 20, 30 or more titles. Plus, prices on independent titles change faster than the speed of light as authors hop from one sales strategy to another trying to get noticed. All a reader has to do is wait a few and eventually The Price is Right somewhere.
Then there are the freebies… And you already know my position on that marketing strategy. But they’re out there, in copious quantities. Authors even pay obscene amounts to middlemen to advertise free downloads in the desperate hope it will translate to sales for the backlist. History and current analyses by publishing pundits suggest this no longer pertains as a viable marketing ploy.
As for the sheer volume of stuff parked on our eReaders, I’m no better. I have >1000 UNREAD titles on my Kindle Fire. I am not going to live long enough to read all of them, let alone keep up with the 5-25 books being launched on a daily basis, just in the MM genre alone!
Anyhoo… back to KU and having 22 titles available for those euphemistic “free reads.” Books that had languished without a sale for months are suddenly being read. In the two days since placing the lot into KU, I’ve got 1162 confirmed pages read, and that’s without advertising.
Granted, I’m earning a pittance (0.0049c/page read), but it’s a pittance I didn’t have two days ago. And who knows, if those readers like one book, perhaps they’ll give others a try.
For now, I’ve done what I can to make some positive changes. Whether or not it continues, or falls flat, only time will tell.
You can find my Amazon titles HERE.
In the meantime, my Muse kicked me in my ample derriere and forced me to chose a WiP. I picked Thunder Basin (A Snowy Range Mystery).
Here’s a snippet from today’s scribblings:
Quinn stared at the slab, registering sharp, armor piercing flares, the watery hell of yet another ocular migraine wreaking havoc with his eyesight. Fingering the notebook, he tried to process the few details they’d been able to eek from the crime scene.
“You ready, Sheriff?” The voice was muffled, perfunctory, the man’s interest directed to the remains laid out on fourteen gauge stainless steel.
He grunted in reply and moved in closer. The GP-slash-coroner had done military time in just about every hellhole the Army had to offer. He’d learned his trade on the backs of political missteps and corporate greed. At the end of his twenty he’d finally cut loose and found refuge in the back of beyond, in Quinn’s one-horse town, delivering babies, tending to the infirm and detoxing the residents, including Quinn.
And, when necessary, prodding and poking at a corpse when cause of death wasn’t obvious. Like now.
Shaking off the twinge of embarrassment, Quinn asked, “Think it’s an OD, Doc?” There weren’t any track marks visible on the corpse’s flesh, but that didn’t mean much. The amount of shit hitting the rez lately offered all manner of ways for a man to obliviate into a higher state of consciousness.
“Won’t know until the tox screen comes back. And you know how they are. Cheyenne doesn’t give a rat’s ass…” He grimaced. “Sorry. Been a long day.”
Quinn waved his hand in the air, about to mutter, “Da nada,” but stopped short and waited while the undulations worked their way across his corneas, left-to-right. In the nanosecond before the next waterfall commenced, he took a long, hard look at the body.
Doc Paulsen glanced with curiosity at the Sheriff. “You okay, son? Looks like you seen a ghost.”
Wrinkling his brows, Quinn shook his head no, one sharp snap he instantly regretted. Mumbling, “Just another one of those damn rainbow displays,” he rubbed at his left eye and moved into position to see the body better.
“You sure that’s all, son?”
Quinn ignored the barb, though Doc had a legit reason for assuming the worst. In the five years he’d been servicing their area’s medical needs, the man had occasion, more than once, to pull Quinn up by the bootstraps, including incarcerating him in his own damn jail cell. It had been their little secret for a few months now, a fallback into a demon hell he’d not soon forget.
Shaking off the older man’s concern, Quinn said, “Third one since spring. Seem a little odd we got ourselves an epidemic of dead bodies suddenly?” Not just dead. Mysteriously, unexplainably dead. To Doc’s grimace, Quinn muttered, “I’ll make a call, see if I can shake something loose.”
“You sure you want to do that, boy?”
Quinn sucked air. No, he damn well wasn’t sure. He was already on the department’s radar, a department he’d left with his tail between his goddamn legs. A department he’d sacrificed his soul for.
And how had that worked out for you, boyo?
Doc didn’t know particulars, which kept them friends, but the man was too good at reading people not to know something dirty had gone down, something that had field stripped Quinn’s self-respect, leaving him a staggering poster boy for drowning his sorrows. He never asked. Quinn never offered. It made for an unsteady alliance shored up by a laughable professional relationship—two reprobates hiding out on a slab of prairie bookended by a truck stop at one end and a honkytonk saloon on the other. In the middle was a hardscrabble town of make do and just getting by.
Lancer, Wyoming. Last stop before heading north into the bowels of Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Hometown to nothing special. Unless you were dead. Then you got the royal treatment. Stainless steel. Scalpels. A weigh pan…
And a sheriff with shit for brains and a liver slowly dying of despair.
804 words today. It’s a start.
Peace and Happy Fall Equinox to y’all.